Staunton, June 11 – Because of its economic importance as a center of Russian oil production, the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous District has been under constant pressure from Moscow; and many of its leaders expect a wholesale purge of their ranks by the central authorities after the upcoming Duma elections.
To protect themselves, the URA.ru news agency says, they are planning to create a district “national guard,” something that could lay themselves open to charges that they are “organizing an illegal armed formation” and a step that would make them the second federal subject, after Chechnya, to have one (ura.ru/articles/1036268103).
According to the agency’s Eldar Bulatov, the district’s government is getting ready for “life after the elections.” Its leadership, including head Natalya Komarova, foresee “a new wave of retirements.” Indeed, they think they know whose these will be, including “the first persons of the autonomy.” To protect themselves, they have decided to create a protection force.”
The new institution, which is being set up by Aleksey Shipilov, the region’s curator for internal affairs, will be staffed by former FSB officers, siloviki from the investigations committee, and the police.” Its leadership also hopes to involve veterans from the fighting in Ukraine and Syria.
And the force, the precise size of which has not been determined, will be charged with “defending officials from all-possible interference, including from the official force structures,” the URA.ru journalist says. If this project goes forward, it sets the stage for serious and possibly violent clashes between forces loyal to Khansi-Mansiisk and those loyal to Moscow.
Because such a regional force structure could be considered to be a violation of Article 208 of the Russian criminal code which bans the formation of “illegal armed formations,” the force will be called something that will allow it to operate under the one exception of that law, which allows for “private protection” activities such as many companies have.
But because it is being organized by the government authorities, it would appear to violate the spirit if not the letter of the law and thus suggest that politics in at least this region is on the brink of becoming more violent than at any point since the 1990s. What is unknown but likely is that other regional government leaders may be contemplating doing the same thing.